Sandra is a medical herbalist, medical anthropologist, and columnist for the NZ Herald.

Your health: Natural remedies for asthma

8 comments
As asthma causes irritation within the lungs, thyme and aniseed combine well with medicinal plants that help reduce this inflammation. Photo / Getty
As asthma causes irritation within the lungs, thyme and aniseed combine well with medicinal plants that help reduce this inflammation. Photo / Getty

I've recently shifted into a student flat, and it has really made my asthma flare up. I have an inhaler, but heard there might be a natural approach to relieving it. Can you suggest anything that might help?
Molly, Dunedin

Flatting can be hard! Especially if you are in a cold and damp flat as this can have a direct effect on your health.

Asthma is very common in New Zealand with one in nine adults taking asthma medication. People suffering from asthma have sensitive airways, causing them to constrict, swell and fill with mucus at times when triggered. In many cases the cause of asthma is not known, which makes it hard to mitigate the triggers, but it certainly can be managed.

Thyme (thymus vulgaris) is a great herb that can help when you have a cough or feel wheezy, as it has a spasmolytic effect on smooth muscle, meaning it can help to relax tight muscles. This is especially important with asthma.

The added benefit of thyme is that it has antibacterial and antiviral properties, helping prevent both viral and bacterial infections that can get seated in the lungs. Thyme is best taken as an oral liquid by the teaspoonful, as a tonic (medicinal syrup made into a hot drink) or as a medicinal tea. It combines well with aniseed (pimpinella anisum) which has proven spasmolytic, expectorant, cough relieving and antibacterial properties.

As asthma causes irritation within the lungs, thyme and aniseed combine well with medicinal plants that help reduce this inflammation. Plantain is the perfect herb as it holds anti-inflammatory constituents that reduce the airway inflammation, allowing people to breathe easier while reducing coughing episodes and soothing the respiratory tract.

Licorice (glycyrrhiza glabra) is a favoured anti-inflammatory by medical herbalists, as it has been shown to lower plasma levels of inflammatory cytokines in patients (compared to a placebo). Licorice also soothes the respiratory tract while reducing inflammation - essential for those that suffer with asthma.

As we are heading into winter, there is an extra need to look after ourselves so we don't get sick. This means supporting the immune system, which is especially vital if you have asthma , other chronic pulmonary obstructive disorders (COPD) or emphysema. Often those compromised with these conditions are most susceptible to getting infections and this is where plant remedies can help.

By taking a formula comprised of anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory and soothing herbs as a preventative once a day or more when needed, they can help to keep infections away and to allow better support for breathing for those suffering from asthma.

Taking a combined herbal formula may help to improve your asthma symptoms, as will ensuring your room is well ventilated, dry and warm.

If your symptoms get worse please consult your doctor and do not make drastic changes to your medication protocol without their approval.

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Sandra is a medical herbalist, medical anthropologist, and columnist for the NZ Herald.

Sandra Clair is the founder of Artemis (artemis.co.nz) offering New Zealanders a premium range of traditional plant medicine products. She is one of New Zealand’s most highly qualified health professionals in her field, as a Swiss trained medical herbalist and a medical anthropologist (M.A.). Sandra is currently completing a PhD in health science at the University of Canterbury in collaboration with the Chair for Natural Medicine of the University of Zürich, Switzerland.

Read more by Sandra Clair

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